6 Surprise VA Benefits for Your Family

(Photo: U.S. Air Force/Senior Airman Jette Carr.)
(Photo: U.S. Air Force/Senior Airman Jette Carr.)

If your family has transitioned from the military to civilian life, you may be navigating the whole new benefits world of the Department of Veterans Affairs. While it's likely most of the VA benefits are specifically for your veteran, some of them might be for you, too. And if your veteran is receiving any amount of disability pay, the benefits likely impact the whole family because they change what cash comes into your family bank account each month.

Whether or not you're new to the VA, it's likely that there are benefits that you just don't know you or your veteran has. Take a look at the following to ensure you're taking advantage of everything you can.

1. Free counseling

You knew about the free counseling offered through Military OneSource while your service member was active duty, but did you know the VA has a similar program? Unlike the Military OneSource service, which works with local therapists, the VA readjustment counseling service is operated out of the VA's veteran centers. For veterans or their family members to use the service, the veteran must qualify under a set of guidelines. But they are broad, and most post-9/11 troops meet the basic requirements.

There are plenty of emotional or life-change battles to face as you move from military to civilian life. And as long as your family qualifies, you may be able to sit down with a counselor to tackle working through PTSD, military-to-civilian transition issues and more.

2. Appointment travel reimbursements

. Unless you happen to live right down the street from the VA hospital or clinic or are using VA Choice, your veteran is likely traveling for any medical appointments he has through the VA. That means he or she qualifies for a travel reimbursement for each and every trip to and from those appointments. Filing for reimbursement is easy -- simply fill out this form and hand it in at the VA or mail it to the address provided.

3. Shopping and MWR on base

If your service member has been ruled 100 percent service-connected disabled, your family still has access to commissary Exchange shopping and MWR activities on base. If your veteran is not 100 percent disabled, he or she can have access to the Exchanges online. Although you won't be able to have your own login, you can shop under your veteran's account.

4. Caregiver support

Depending on your veteran's injury and how involved you are in his everyday care, you may qualify for the Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers. That program gives qualifying users a cash stipend for taking care of their veteran. But even if you don't qualify for the payments, the VA offers other caregiver support resources and information that you might find helpful.

5. Free health care

If your veteran has been ruled permanently and totally disabled, you could qualify for free healthcare through the CHAMPVA program.

6. State benefits

Did you know all states have their own benefits for disabled veterans? New Jersey, for example, offers veterans state employment hiring preference, while Alaska gives major breaks on property taxes. Benefits vary widely by state, so check out this guide.

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